Monday, September 10, 2012

Lensbaby lets us view the world through the eye of a fish

Another day, another consumer electronics review. This time, Lensbaby sent us out their Scout model lens. The Scout is equipped with a removable 12mm Fisheye optic that can be swapped out with a number of optics. The Scout is available for Canon EF (EOS), Nikon F, Sony Alpha A / Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K / Samsung GX / Sigma SD, Olympus 4/3 camera models. Along with the lens, aperture disks ranging from f/5.6 to f/22 are included in the package with a storage and removal tool. All specs aside and out of the way, the lens is on the Nikon SLR, and its time for some shooting.

First things first, I rank myself as an average photographer and have a couple lenses depending on what I am shooting and where I am at. Since using my GoPro for some fisheye shots, I had wanted a lens to take these shots from my Nikon, hell anything with a viewfinder. The Scout was easy to mount, aperture disks were fast to install and remove, and the manual focus works very smoothly. I had to put the camera in manual mode as the lens was not detected, but I usually prefer that anyway as it is easy to take a shot, view, fine-tune the focus and shutter speed, then repeat. Another particular ability I especially liked in my use was that the fisheye had a 160 degree viewing angle and was able to focus at as little as a half an inch.

The downside to the mighty little lens is that I can see someone with little experience and an SLR camera may lose interest or become overwhelmed quickly. The biggest reason I say this is that there is no electronic communication between the camera body and the lens. I did notice that I had to take a lot more photos to try and find the specific shot I am looking for and depending on the amount of light, you can’t keep the shutter open long and get a clear shot without use of a tripod. Lastly and this is really a personal opinion, but I am not a fan of how this looks, I mean if it were on a car or something it would it better, but the polished metal look does not fit the look of the SLR, and in fact makes it stand out when mounted on the body.
The lowdown is that this lens worked as advertised, that isn’t to say it’s a bad thing especially with a lower price point than most on the market. I am saying that Lensbaby set high expectations and came through on all with exception to how it looks when attached to my Nikon. One thing that I did not know until starting my review and researching additional products, was the availability of additional optics that can be swapped with the fisheye for a variety of different shots and a much lower rate than the big name brand replacements. Just remember, this isn’t for those that love the auto focus feature to their lenses but an affordable gem for those that like to manually fine tune shots and go for a number of effects without heavily relying on the magic of photo editing.

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